Was Barbarossa Doomed from the start?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Tyrann Philip II, Feb 22, 2019.

  1. Tyrann Philip II Sic vis Pacem, Para Bellum

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    It's probably been asked numerous times, but was there any even slight chance that a German invasion of Russia could've succeeded? It just seems that regardless of the amount of early victories the Wehrmacht can score against the Russians, the Red Army can simply pull back, regroup, and counterattack.
     
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  2. The Ranger Do not feed the trolls

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    Hitler being less racist and treating Russians well could have meant many Russians joining him willing to fight Stalin which would make the invasion much easier, and warm clothing in 1941 would have been a big help as well.
     
  3. Tyrann Philip II Sic vis Pacem, Para Bellum

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    The main problem with the whole "liberators from Communism" idea is that it goes against the main ideals of Nazi ideology. By this point wouldn't Generalplan Ost be well into effect, therefore making any chance to rally Belorussians, Poles, and Russian deserters slim to none?
     
  4. MFP4073 Well-Known Member

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    It's wasn't doomed from the start if you define that as "there's a small chance of victory". From a Logistics standpoint - it was doomed from the start because it was done on a shoestring with no plans for a protracted conflict. https://history.army.mil/html/books/104/104-21/cmhPub_104-21.pdf is a long read but does a nice job on explaining this (funnily enough, I referenced this same study in another thread today).

    Sure, given some PODs (discussed at length over the years on this board) "victory" was possible but they really didn't plan for a realistic conflict that lasted more than 3 months.
     
  5. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

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    Here is an example of a military operation doomed from the start, the Spanish Armada, for comparison.

    The Spanish Armada plan was for a fleet that had been built in the previous six years, by a country that had only maintained naval forces in the Mediterranean, to be sent to the Channel and defeat an English fleet that had weapons with greater range. Then an army based in Flanders would cross to England in small boats. For this to work, not only did they need perfect weather when weather forecasting was more unreliable than now, they needed radio to coordinate with the army and navy, so it depended on technology that didn't exist. Note that the Spanish Armada actually came close, the fleet got up the Channel to the appointed rendevous point and the army actually started embarking, and this was an operation that really was technically not possible given the technology at the time.

    On the other hand, it was technically feasible for both the German army to take over lots of Russian territories and to cause the Russian government to collapse. We know this because in 1915-18, the German army accomplished both, when most of the German army was in France and Belgium. In 1941 they secured air superiority quickly and could concentrate nearly everything against Russia. So it was unlikely but technically feasible.

    However, the key was the Stalinish regime collapsing, and this is where, contrary to conventional wisdom, the purges helped Stalin and the communist government survive. Failing that, the Germans still could have taken over large amounts of Russian territory, cut Russia off from much of its oil supply in the Caucasus, and left a rump communist Russian government as a sort of nuisance.
     
  6. Tyrann Philip II Sic vis Pacem, Para Bellum

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    I really appreciate the document! Thank you very much!
     
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  7. Catspoke Member

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    Logistics was always going to be difficult. The reality of the campaign the Germans were limited by the supplies they could bring forward, For example during Typhoon, many Panzer divisions were sitting around due to lack of fuel. During many of the drives, the Germans would throw together a small battlegroup they could keep fueled for exploitation. When ever the Soviets could throw something in front of these, German exploitation would stop.

    With foresight the Germans could prepare better, build an extra rail bridge over the Vistula (a bottleneck). Maybe expand their rail conversion battalions.

    Avoiding Ju52 losses in Create and/or Norway, means you might be able to keep an extra Panzer division supplied at a spearhead, during the exploitation phases.

    If your lucky, the Germans thrust a Panzer division into Moscow in October, and the Soviets evacuate the place without a fight.

    Probably not war winning, but taking Moscow in 1941 really hurts the Soviets, probably prevents a counter attack until late 43, Maybe 44.
     
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  8. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Sure, there were a number of strategic and operational mistakes the Germans made. Arguably the Soviets could have made even more and suffered accordingly. But in the sense of defeating the USSR entirely in one campaign yes, it couldn't work like that, but that doesn't mean mortal wounds couldn't have been inflicted in 1941 that would have taken down Stalin's regime in 1942.
     
  9. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Eh, there were plenty of things that could have been done in the planning phase to fix the logistics issues, but even without that there were still pretty substantial things that could have been done not to disperse effort strategically to take Moscow.
     
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  10. MFP4073 Well-Known Member

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    Totally, agree. I took the OP that there is are no changes in plans as-of the start of Barbarossa. Meaning: Barbarossa plan == OTL Barbarossa plan.
     
  11. wiking Well-Known Member

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    That's the thing, the OTL flawed Barbarossa plan could even have been made to work beyond 'a small chance'. There were a bunch of mistakes that were made after the campaign started that even if some are dealt with could have created a lot of problems for the Soviets.
     
  12. Captain Marvel Well-Known Member

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    Such as?
     
  13. MFP4073 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I agree it being more than "a small chance" - that was a poor use of words. When you bundle up the OTL mistakes (planning and execution) and the underestimation of the Soviet capabilities and couple that with hindsight it's easy for it to feel like there was only a small chance when in reality things could have gone a lot worse (aka better for Germany).
     
  14. wiking Well-Known Member

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    There were some operational moves that could have really hurt the Soviets in the Baltic area and around the junction of the AG-North/Center. Certainly had Guderian not fixated on holding Yelnya during the Smolensk pocket and actually used those forces to close the pocket they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and casualties later. I'd argue the Kiev attack before Moscow was a mistake in hindsight. There were a few things during the later attacks on Leningrad that were mistakes, stuff that would take a while to explain.
     
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  15. Albidoom Fuzzy Thing

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    Since the long term goal was to conquer Russia up to the Urals (and being so genocidal along the way that the people living there have virtually zero incentive to collaborate and nothing to lose if the go partisan) then the answer is clearly Yes, Barbarossa was doomed from the start.
     
  16. stevej713 Well-Known Member

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    I agree with your conclusion...however, you're confusing Operation Barbarossa with Generalplan Ost. Operation Barbarossa was a military operation with the primary objective being to destroy the Red Army and reach a line from Archangelsk to Astrakhan in one campaign season. Nothing more. Generalplan Ost dealt with long term policies such as genocide.

    With that said, there was no chance of Barbarossa succeeding in the way the Wehrmacht planned. Reaching the A-A Line by Fall 1941 was hopelessly ambitious and depended on the Red Army effectively lying down and dying without a struggle (hence the infamous quote about "kicking open the door the rotten structure crashing down").

    However, later plans envisioned a line from Leningrad to Rostov, which I think is much closer to the realm of possibility - that is, if all the stars aligned, the Wehrmacht made no mistakes and the Red Army made more mistakes. What many don't realize is that the Red Army didn't become an unstoppable juggernaut until 1943. A more successful 1941 could have produced a much more successful 1942 and an unrecognizable 1943.

    All these things would not have produced a German victory though. Occupation of the USSR, combined with the growing might of the US, would have bled the Germans white.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  17. merlin Well-Known Member

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    Hitler IMHO was the main problem - he changed the 'Plan' making an unnecessary complication to the Halder (OKW) Plan.
    Then he couldn't help but interfere - too often slowing the offensive down with hold orders, when continued movement was needed not to give the Soviets an respite.
    Later with AGN, it was OKW stipulating the lines of attack when allowing those in situ who knew better to get the results wanted.
    The front line at the end of 1941 could have been further east - Leningrad, Moscow, not easy, but still could have. With 1942 isolating the Russians from the southern oilfields, and Stalingrad taken - Russian reserves spent on trying to retake Moscow!
     
  18. stevej713 Well-Known Member

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    This is a myth perpetuated by the generals after the war, one that has been accepted all too easily by the West - "the Wehrmacht was trying to wage an honest war and would have succeeded if not for dratted Hitler and his constant meddling!" It was an attempt by the generals to absolve themselves of blame for Germany's failures and for the destruction they caused. In truth, the blame for many of the Wehrmacht's greatest failures lies with the generals themselves. Alan Clark in Barbarossa: the Russian-German Conflict 1941-1945 makes it painfully clear how dysfunctional the Wehrmacht was in its command structure and its relationship to the civilian government. Many of the generals and field marshalls resented Hitler's authority over them and often ignored his directives for the sake of their own personal glory and to the detriment of their success in the war. A good example is FM von Leeb's repeated armored assaults on Leningrad AFTER Hitler had instructed them to depart in preparation of Typhoon, thus depleting them and rendering them mostly useless. There's also AGC, which suffered from constant conflict between Guderian and von Kluge. Guderian had quite of habit of coming into conflict with pretty much everyone, which can be good in some cases but mostly does no good for the military as a whole.

    Hitler's interference, especially towards the end of the war, was an impediment in many cases, but during Barbarossa, many of his directives were (somewhat) rational. But there were simply too many personalities involved within an institution that historically was not accountable to anyone.
     
  19. wiking Well-Known Member

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    You do know that Hitler was the one who structured the military that way, right? He picked the officers he wanted largely by 1941, a process that started in 1932 even with the appointment of von Blomberg to have someone as War Minister who'd be wiling to work with Hitler, and Hitler seizing control over the War Minister position in addition to that of Chancellor and President meant his structure of government and military was down to his decision. He after all was the head of OKW since 1938 and it's dysfunction came down to his choice to run it that way.

    Von Leeb didn't repeatedly directly assault Leningrad prior to Typhoon and the divisions were replenished with armor before they attacked anyway.
     
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  20. Captain Marvel Well-Known Member

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    So you think they should have focused on Moscow and not diverted forces elsewhere?